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Help with itinerary and hotels for Barcelona and Basque Country

Help with itinerary and hotels for Barcelona and Basque Country

Old Oct 22nd, 2012, 04:48 PM
  #1  
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Help with itinerary and hotels for Barcelona and Basque Country

My husband and I (in our mid and late 50s) will have 4 or 5 nights in Barcelona and 6 or 7 nights in Basque Country before heading to Paris for a week. We've been to Paris, but this will be our first trip to Barcelona and Basque Country. I'm hoping for some input with the itinerary and hotels. We like smaller boutique hotels and would like to stay within a budget of $300 per night, though it is flexible. We like to walk as much as possible, but will take public transportation or taxis too.

1. In Barcelona I'm considering the Eixample, Barri Gotic and El Born areas, but having trouble deciding among them. Which would you recommend for architecture, charm, restaurants and cafes? Are any of these less safe than the others at night? So far, I'm trying to decide among Hotel Jazz, Hotel Neri and K+K Picasso, but I'm open to suggestions.

2. How long does it take to get to the airport from the city center and how much time do we need to allow at the airport before a flight to San Sebastian or Bilbao? We're considering a 6pm flight on a Saturday or a 9:00am flight on Sunday.

3. We're planning to make our base in San Sebastian, with the idea that we'd rent a car to explore the Spanish and French Basque. I'm trying to decide between taking the TGV from Hendaye or Biarritz to Paris, or flying to Paris from Biarritz, which appears to be less expensive than flying from Bilbao or San Sebastian. Does the TGV follow a scenic route? Would you recommend staying in Hondarribia or Biarritz or ??? to make it easier to catch our train or plane? (I'm assuming it's easy and fast to get to Hendaye from Hondarribia.) Any hotel suggestions? The parador in Hondarribia looks interesting, but they don't appear to have any rooms with views available and I'm not sure it's worth the extra expense to stay there if we don't have a view.

Thank you!
Vonse is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2012, 08:02 PM
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Vonse - we went to Barcelona in 2011 and stayed at both the Hotel Pulitzer and the Hotel Jazz. Much preferred the Pulitzer (for rooms, food, location, service, everything). I did not find the Eixample to be as charming as other parts of Barcelona although there are many good restaurants and it did feel safe at night. This summer I traveled to the Basque region of both Spain and France. We stayed near Guethary and wished that we would have stayed in Biarritz after visiting. There is a lot of traffic (in July anyway) along the coast. We also stayed 3 nights in San Sebastian at the Villa Soro. It is not in the thick of things but the service was excellent (and they provided bicycles which we found very useful). I can't comment on the travel back to Paris from Biarritz (we flew out of SS to Madrid then back to US)- though I did take the TGV from Paris to Bordeaux which was lovely. You will do some great eating in Barcelona and the Basque country and they are both lovely - enjoy!!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2012, 08:13 PM
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When we were in Hondarribia we took the little navette ferry for 1E across to Hendaye.
But the best part of the Pays Basque were the charming and beautiful villages such as Ainhoa, Sare, Espellette, among the prettiest we have seen in France. St-Jean de Luz is also wonderful.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2012, 08:26 PM
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I'd base myself in San Sebastian versus Hondarribia for a first trip to the Basque Country.

If you haven't seen maribels guides they are excellent for the areas you'll be visiting.

http://maribelsguides.com/
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Old Oct 23rd, 2012, 07:46 AM
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Yes I agree with HappyTrvlr about the villages in the Pays Basque and if you like to cook be sure to buy some Piment d'Esplette while you are there! There is also some beautiful walking between some of those villages - if you visit the tourism office they will have maps.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2012, 08:30 AM
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In terms of scenery, the TGV should be compared to an Interstate highway in the States; usually not particularly scenic except when cutting through high mountains like the Sierra and the Rockies. Such mountains do not exist between Biarritz and Paris.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2012, 08:45 AM
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I forgot to mention we're traveling in mid May.

My reason for choosing Hondarribia was its proximity to Hendaye to catch the TGV to Paris, Maribel's description and to a lesser extent, the parador. I thought we'd explore the villages in the French Basque from there. Now, my husband isn't so keen on staying in a fortress because, well, it's a fortress and he'd prefer something with expansive views and a balcony. We enjoy visiting the small villages during the day, but would rather sleep in larger towns where we'd have more dining and nightlife options. Perhaps a night or two in Biarritz is the way to go, or as Cathy suggested, we could stay put in San Sebastian and force ourselves to get up and out early to catch the (9:30, I think) train in Hendaye.

Lynnalan: Thanks for the Pulitzer recommendation, I'll give it a look. I'm definitely planning on buying some Piment d'Esplette. Walking from village to village sounds like a lovely way to spend the day. I'm waiting to hear from Hotel Londres in San Sebastian, which I picked for location and views. Is it an easy walk into town from Villa Soro?
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Old Oct 23rd, 2012, 08:58 AM
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Michael, I thought it might be nice to have a day off so to speak by taking the train to Paris - reading, napping and taking in the scenery.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2012, 09:08 AM
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I'm not against the TGV, in fact I recommend buying the reduced priced non-refundable, non-exchangeable PREM tickets three months in advance. But given the speed of the train on straightened tracks, I would not take the train for its potential scenery.

For prices, plug in a date three months in advance to see what it would cost-- http://www.sncf.com/en/passengers
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Old Oct 23rd, 2012, 09:24 AM
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As far as views, the parador in Hondarribia is up in the medieval quarter so it's views may be of the charming neighborhood. A good feature about the parador is that it offers parking.We had views from our room at the Hotel Obispo across the river to France but it had limited, first come, first served, parking.We loved this small city with it's Marina Quarter and the colorful fishermen's houses below.
The airport for San Sebastian is near the river in Hondarribia.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2012, 09:58 AM
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TGV travel, although fast and direct is a close you eyes experience as the scenery goes by so fst your head may spin.Perhaps if you sit with you back to the direction of the ta\rain is isn't as bad butfacing foward is not at all pleasant if you have any tenc
dency to dizziness. Think aout the parking in SS. It also can be a problem.
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Old Oct 24th, 2012, 04:26 PM
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Hi Vonse,

Please look into the hotels my husband and I enjoyed last May and June. The location for each is stupendous
The restaurant in the Hotel Banys Oriental was so creatively delicious we dined there twice during our week stay. We chose the upstairs dining room, at the railing of the center court. The sauntering up and down the alley ways for tapas was an evening of unique good food with so much fun and friendliness in all three locations.

Bilbao - Hotel Miro
Alameda Mazarredo,77 48009 Bilbao                     

San Sebastian - Hotel Niza
Zubieta, 56 San Sebastian 20007               


Barcelona - Hotel Banys Oriental
Argenteria 37
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Old Oct 25th, 2012, 12:57 PM
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Thanks all for taking the time to respond!

Re Barcelona, I've checked out the neighborhoods around the various hotels I'm considering on street view/Google Maps. The Barri Gotic and El Born neighborhoods are really appealing, but are the rooms at the Neri and Banys Oriental dark and claustrophobic due to the narrow streets? The Pulitzer looks like it may be the winner for now, even though I think I prefer the Barri Gotic and El Born quarters.

At this point (it may change) I think we'll stay in San Sebastian for 5 nights at Hotel Londres, with day trips to Bilbao, Lekeitio and Getaria in one direction, and to Hondarribia, St. Jean de Luz, and the inland villages such as Esplette in the other. Then we'll head to Biarritz for 2 nights and either fly or take the TGV from there to Paris. I'd love some hotel recommendations for Biarritz.
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Old Oct 25th, 2012, 01:07 PM
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I had a wonderful large and bright room when I stayed at the Banys Oriental back in 2006. My room had windows overlooking the street with a small balcony. I loved it!

Hotel Londres is well located in San Sebastian. With only 5 nights in San Sebastian you'll probably end up paring back the daytrips once you get there. Bilbao is really an entire day. So if you plan on even just one day for San Sebastian itself then you have 3 days for Lekeitio, Getaria, Hondarribia, St Jean de Luz and inland villages. Logistically it can be done but you won't have alot of time to soak it in.

You may also consider Bayonne vs Biarritz, or at the very least a visit to Bayonne while you're based in Biarritz.
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Old Oct 25th, 2012, 01:28 PM
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Hi Cathy, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the Banys Oriental. I would definitely ask for a room with a balcony over the street on a higher floor.

Our plans for Basque Country are really rough; our daily itinerary is flexible and will depend on our mood and the weather. On the day we head to Biarritz I thought we'd take the train to St. Jean de Luz, pick up a car and see the town, then drive through Guethary and Bidart to Biarritz. We'd spend the next day exploring Biarritz and Bayonne, sleep in Biarritz and either catch an 8:55 flight or 10:15 train to Paris. Do you think we should spend just one night in Biarritz in order to add a night to San Sebastian? That would mean skipping Guethary, Bidart and most likely Bayonne.
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Old Oct 25th, 2012, 01:58 PM
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I'm going to be the outlier and contrarian on this post, because I have a different take on most things from other posters.

We took 2 TGV trips in October, Paris- Nimes and Nimes-Figueres, Spain, where we changed to a standard train to Barcelona.

The Paris-Nimes route takes 3 hours, so clearly we were traveling at close to full speed for most of that route. I certainly would not call it Close Your Eyes travel, nor did the scenery fly past. We spotted (and revelled in) many familiar landmarks along the way.

Overall, I found it hard to believe we were traveling as fast as reported. It seemed pretty sedate.

Re locations in Barcelona: Barri Gotic and the historic centre contain much that you will not want to miss.

But we stayed in the southernmost portion of the Eixample and I greatly preferred that area for a first visit. We had a rental apartment in Carrer del Consell de Cent (Spanish: Calle del Consejo de Ciento). We were 2 or 3 blocks from the Casa Batllo' and the core of the Modernisme area. We walked everywhere -- both into the historic centre and east to sites such as the Sagrada Familia.

Around the corner was the highly popular but informal bar/ restaurant La Flauta, a culinary milestone on this trip. The whole area was far less touristy that the Barri Gotic and its adjacent areas.

As I mentioned, there is much in the latter that you will not want to miss but overall, I found the streetscape in the historic centre dark, twisty and narrow to the point of creepiness; overall, the area struck me as rather dingy and dull.

Most of Las Ramblas I found tawdry beyond words.
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Old Oct 25th, 2012, 02:20 PM
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I appreciate your take Tedgale! I think I'm going to have my husband take a Google street view tour of Barcelona before we make a final decision on the neighborhood. Las Ramblas is near the bottom of my list of things to see in BCN. I imagine it to be sort of like the Champs Elysees in Paris, but worse. Thanks for the La Flauta recommendation!

Five years ago we took the TGV from Paris to Aix en Provence, and thoroughly enjoyed the ride and landscape, so I'm not too concerned about the speed. The decision will probably come down to whether we want to deal with airports and add those few hours to Paris, or not.
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Old Oct 26th, 2012, 02:40 PM
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ira
 
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Hi V,

My Ladywife and I have just come back from Barcelona and the Basque Country.

I can highly recommend the Marina View B&B in Barcelona. http://www.marinaviewbcn.com/

We stayed in the Columbus Room.

>...How long does it take to get to the airport ...<
Enter your information at www.maps.google.com

>I imagine it to be sort of like the Champs Elysees in Paris, but worse.

We thought La Ramblas, although crowded and touristy was better than the Champs.

Enjoy your visit.

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Old Oct 26th, 2012, 07:21 PM
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Marina viws was just lovely. Jose Maria is a most helpful host. This is an apartment that is dedicated to a B&B a short 2 blocks ro Las Ramblas and with a view of the sea from the front room. Jose Maria, our host, is in his own apartment in the same building.3 of us stayed in one room very comfortably. Breakfast is served in your room at your convenience and a public parking garage is 1 block away. Would stay there again any time.
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Old Oct 26th, 2012, 08:18 PM
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Hotel Neri is not claustrophobic, on a beautiful small square with a dark history some 100 meters from the huge and airy square in front of the Cathedral. On Plaza San Felipe de Neri where some 42 people were killed, half of them children, when fleeing into the San Felipe Neri church during a Franco forces bomb-raid on the 30th of January 1938. The damages on the church door and walls have not been repaired, so the square remains a testimony to the horrors of the Civil War. Even today there are teddy-bears placed along the walls to memorize the kids that were killed here, but the plaza also comes very much alive during the day as a primary school is located in one of its corners. http://www.oh-barcelona.com/en/blog/...barcelona-3171

I used to recommend Banys Orientals, but just returned from Barcelona to find the Argenteria street full loaded with tourists most of the day due to it leading on to the beautiful Santa María del Mar church which is the "Cathedral of the sea" of the immensely popular 2006 novel by the same name.

And I'd choose fabulous San Sebastián ten times over small Hondarribia. The culinary capital of Spain, some of the finest city beaches on the continent and European capital of culture 2016: http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/08/07...ain.html?_r=1&
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